Bryan Virasami. Newsday. 5/8/2005.


All they want for Mother's Day, two council members said Sunday, are smaller class sizes and a tax surcharge on the wealthy to help pay for it.


Annabel Palma of the Bronx and Sara Gonzalez of Brooklyn, both Democrats, called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to support a push to extend a tax surcharge on some 25,000 New Yorkers.

 

The surcharge on those making $500,000 or more a year would add up to about $380 million a year and would be used specifically to fund smaller class sizes in public school classrooms.


The idea for public schools, subject to state approval, was one of the highlights in Speaker Gifford Miller's budget response recently.


"We can give millionaires a tax cut or we can reduce class size," Palma said. "We urge the mayor to make the right choice; on Mother's Day, let's choose our children."


Kelly Devers, a Department of Education spokeswoman, said in a statement that class sizes are already reduced or "contained" at most grades and more city and state funds are used to address the issue.


The city hopes funds from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, in which a judge has ordered the city to spend billions on public schools in the next few years, would be made available from the state.


Meanwhile, the department said it is on the problem.


"The classroom conditions that matter whatever the class size -- quality of instruction, individual attention, continuous assessment and interactive teaching -- are all emphasized in our citywide core curriculum and intervention strategies," according to a department statement.


Miller, who is running for mayor, has been speaking frequently on education issues, including the surcharge, in recent months.


The personal income tax surcharge, set to expire at the end of this year, would continue for those making $500,000 or more, based on Miller's plan. The surcharge was implemented in 2003 to help the city bounce back after the Sept. 11 tragedy.


As the number of immigrant children continue to keep classrooms filled, the issue is more relevant, said Gonzalez.


"People come to the United States and we have to give them the education they deserve. So as a city it is our responsibility," said Gonzalez.